FRESH OFF THE BOAT Review: “Breaking Chains”

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“Breaking Chains” is a peculiar episode of FRESH OFF THE BOAT, as we find that the kids have noticeably hit puberty from last week’s episode. That aside “Breaking Chains” also establishes a new status quo for Eddie (Hudson Yang), Emery (Forrest Wheeler), and Evan (Ian Chen) as Emery enters middle school with Eddie leaving Evan behind to adapt.

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Things kickoff with the Huang family watching the 1996 Summer Olympics with a very funny Randy Lewis joke from Lucille Soong as Grandma Jenny Huang. Back home Eddie and friends relish in a shared hip-hop fantasy now that they’re eighth graders while musing on Izzy the 96 Olympic mascot (“It looks like a gay rain drop”) to watching late night Cinemax (“I wanna be a pizza delivery boy”), Emery states how excited he is to start middle school to which Eddie and his friends react by laughing accordingly when they tell him that sixth grade sucks. On Emery’s first day Eddie hands him a binder with all the lies Eddie told over the past two years about his Chinese heritage to make life easier on himself. Emery finds himself not enjoying the rules Eddie forces on him.

I felt bad for Emery as he had someone he could connect to and possibly be his girlfriend be taken away from him due to Eddie’s rules. He’s faced with having to eat food he doesn’t want to eat, not being able to take showers, or participate in class. Eddie presents his side on how difficult the adjustment was for him, but not realizing he’s doing the same to his brother.

Evan, having not adjusted himself, refuses to make friends with a kid who wants to sit next to him on the bus. He instead wants the space empty because he wants to honor his brother’s memory. He eventually comes to terms with that as he builds a memorial that freaks out one of Emery’s crushes. Evan having to confront Eddie made himself get over the fact that he has to accept the change of his brother no longer being there on that bus ride with him.

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Meanwhile, Jessica (Constance Wu) says in passing that she would like help with cleaning, leading Louis (Randall Park) to hire a cleaning lady named Mary (Melanie Hutsell). In typical Jessica fashion, she takes offense and a great dislike to Mary, and criticizes her cleaning so badly she quits. Needing a ride home as Louis said one would be given, Jessica then asks Mary for gas money.

Louis calling Jessica to Cattleman’s Ranch, so Mary can get back in and clean the house to her own devices, makes Jessica realize how much she was needed upon seeing how clean the house is. Seeing her figures are touched up and fixed makes her realize how wrong she was as well.

One thing I miss about Fresh Off the Boat is how the show revolved around Eddie and his sensibilities. Ever since the creative change of season two and continuing forward, we’re dealing with extraneous stories that feel redundant such as this week’s with Jessica and Mary. At this point it feels as if we’re going through the motions of Jessica being a shrew due to cultural clashes and misjudgments. It’s played out at this point.

The show truly shines when it focuses on Eddie and now he’s sharing the spotlight with his brothers, so it’s less of the situational comedy that made season one a standout. This might be the most underrated cast on TV right now, but Fresh Off the Boat needs to retool itself once more. You can only skate on nineties nostalgia for so long. Especially one where the formula is starting to show.

Needle drops for this episode:

Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” (classic track)

Cranberries’ “Zombie” (another classic track)

Toni Braxton’s “Un-Break My Heart”

Forgot to mention that Danny Brown’s theme song might go down in history as one of the best. Seriously check him out. He’s a great MC.

TB-TV-Grade-B+

Season 3, Episode 2 (S03E02)
Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesdays at 9PM on ABC

Read all of our reviews of Fresh Off the Boat here. 
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A lifelong film enthusiast since he can remember, Brandon is a indie filmmaker/screenwriter and freelance critic who resides in Trenton, NJ. Feel free to hit him up on Twitter to talk movies, shows, and music (especially hip-hop) .
Follow Brandon on Twitter: @bwood0824
Keep up with all of Brandon’s reviews here.

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